How to Measure an Aircraft Carrier’s Worth
Image Credit: U.S. Navy

How to Measure an Aircraft Carrier’s Worth

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Time Magazine has its Man of the Year. The aircraft carrier must be the Ship of the Year for 2013, considering how many countries are fitting out such behemoths. Debates over these platforms customarily dwell on technical specifications. The size, configuration, and striking power of the air wing, a flattop’s main battery furnish grist, as do such characteristics as sortie rates. Those are a function of variables like catapult capacity, the design of the flight deck, and procedures for moving aircraft around what is, after all, a rather small airport. And then, of course, there’s cost.

Such discussions are entirely proper. Wrangling over tradeoffs among speed, armament, and protection — the basic attributes of any man-of-war — has been part of fleet design as long as there have been men-of-war. To me, though, the fundamental question is whether changes in maritime warfare have dethroned the carrier as a modern navy’s capital ship, the core of the battle fleet. How do carriers and their retinue of escorts fit into naval strategy in hotly contested settings? If they remain capital ships — ships able to take a pounding while pummeling peer navies — they’re worth their expense. If not, there may be cheaper and more effective ways to fulfill the same missions.

Let’s look to Edwardian England for insight. Sea-power gadfly Julian S. Corbett supplies a handy yardstick to help measure whether flattops provide enough bang at critical times and places to justify the big bucks they consume.

According to Sir Julian, navies can do three basic things in wartime. If strong enough, they can take command of important sea areas for strategically relevant spaces of time. That usually means wresting control of these from a hostile navy through battle. If not strong enough — yet — to fight and win, they can prosecute an “active defense.” Defensive measures include thwarting a stronger opponent’s plans while building up superior strength, or inducing that opponent to weaken himself. Active defense, then, is offensive-minded defense — a temporary expedient until circumstances permit a counteroffensive. And, once sea control is in hand, navies exploit it. Neutralizing the competition lets a fleet move people and materiel without serious interference, land troops, or strike inland, whatever. Such are the fruits of maritime mastery.

To these wartime functions we might add maritime security, the constabulary-like missions navies discharge in peacetime. Maritime security is an umbrella term for upkeep of the global system of trade and commerce. Counterpiracy and counterproliferation number among these functions. That’s the naval repertoire: dispute command, win command, exploit command, police the sea. Subordinate functions beyond counting fit within these basic categories.

Here endeth the reading. Now, for which of these missions are aircraft carriers suited? Maritime security? That’s a mighty expensive platform for conducting police duty. And, as Corbett pointed out with battleships, carriers are too few in numbers to monitor the sea lanes effectively. How about denying or winning command? These are both battle functions, and the nub of the debate over the flattop’s future longevity. Are commanders and their political masters prepared to risk a $13 billion asset in combat in an increasingly lethal environment?

Their attitude toward risk might come to resemble that of Gabriel de Sartine, Louis XV’s first secretary of the navy. As Canadian scholar James Pritchard observes, it was Sartine who superintended the reconstruction of the French Navy after Hawke smashed it at Quiberon Bay in 1759. Having managed the finances, he was intimately acquainted with the cost of outfitting a fleet. He also presided over French naval strategy for a time after France allied itself with the American colonists in 1778.”Sartine,” writes Pritchard, “was anxious to preserve the great hoard of wealth that the navy represented. He may have feared to risk it without a guarantee of success.” He thrust risk-nothing tactics on French commanders as a result. Better to conserve precious ships, he believed, than hazard them in combat against the Royal Navy. Gollum!

Similarly, U.S. naval officials may prove reluctant to place supercarriers in jeopardy if they doubt these vessels can withstand, say, saturation missile attacks from sea- and shore-based shooters. They may hold back, letting more elusive platforms such as submarines and more expendable platforms such as surface combatants bear the brunt of the fight for command. If that happens, where will the aircraft carrier fit into Corbett’s scheme of naval missions? In effect the leadership will have demoted it from the capital ship, the navy’s premier combatant, to a power-projection asset. To a ship sent into relatively safe zones after battle.

That would convert the carrier into something like an amphibious transport, a ship that exploits but plays little part in winning command. That’s a heckuva comedown for a pricey warship.

Comments
31
Joseph
February 11, 2014 at 01:14

In order to survive in future naval conflicts surface warships need improved power supply, laser weapons and rail guns for increased firepower. In the near future 2020+ surface warships will be overwhelmed by a massive increase of stealthy supersonic anti-ship missiles, stealth drones with stealth weapons, submarines and hyper-sonic aircraft. Surface warships simply will not be able to carry enough defensive missile and gun systems to deal with these threats. The solutions for these threats are overwhelming near limitless firepower in the form of ship based lasers and rail guns, advanced stealth fighters, backed up by advanced sensor systems such as AMDR; stealth, speed and maneuverability. With the cancellation of the CGX cruiser the US Navy and the US government has decided that survivability of surface warships in future naval conflicts is not a priority. The decisions made today to continue to to build and deploy warships that will only be marginally effective in future naval conflict will be paid for in blood by future generations and US pacific allies that rely on the US Navy for their defense (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the Philippines).

Sam
January 4, 2014 at 11:35

Australia Lost The Equilavent Of 2 US Aircraft Carriers In The Last 10 Yrs From Catering To The Massive Influx Of Refugees (high Cost Of conducting Business In Aust.not The Amount Of Refugees) Price Of Catering $11b Plus And Still Counting, Some Say Its Partly Due To The USand Their Allies Foriegn Policies That Has Caused Such A Gross Humanitarian Tradegy.

TomR
January 1, 2014 at 03:59

How to measure an aircraft carrier’s worth??
I suppose without carriers, we could still invade Canada or Mexico by land.

Patrick Hunt
December 29, 2013 at 00:45

What I cannot understand is why the USA is willing to run trillion dollar deficits to keep so many aircraft carriers in its fleet, which it cannot afford to lose, and in fact cannot afford to pay for their operation without borrowing from future generations. In other words, the US defense posture is simply not sustainable, especially if it meets with a well armed foe. I believe the USA needs to rethink its whole military strategy.

Matt C
December 24, 2013 at 06:01

Never seen such an outpouring of hate as thst from Mr Spitze – or should that be Spite? GB and USA have been loyal allies for many years now – much of the Falklands war was assisted by US weapons – new model Sidewinder for Harriers for example.
So we kept the carriers way out at sea – as we’d no land base within 4K miles, would have been stupid to get them sunk. Final thought – if carriers are useless why does India/China want them?

Junket
December 22, 2013 at 21:23

All military strategists know the submarine aircraft carrier is the true surprise weapon of 2050. Already under development by both USN and PLAN

Tod Spitze
December 21, 2013 at 04:05

Seems to me aircraft carriers on all sides got creamed big time during WW II:
Coral Sea was neutral for the most part with carriers sunk on both sides.
We know of course how razor thin the difference was between the victory our side achieved and the possible total destruction of an effective USN presence in the Pacific, at Midway.
That we won there, giving us time to regroup, and were then able to build a whole lot more carriers during the war than the other guy was a big part of how things panned out, especially by Leyte, but in a future ‘come as you are’ war, that is not likely to be an issue.
Carriers work if they do not encounter serious threats to them, which is hardly the case against China.
BTW, are we going to worry at all about China’s growing submarine threat or are we confident our carrier groups WILL prevail against PLAN subs?
Or will they be able to squeeze us between their land and undersea forces, if we try to stand out of range of their shore based missiles, but within operating parameters for our carrier air wings?
The Chinese don’t need any significant blue water expertise for that.
As for warships being able to withstand airborne attacks in today’s world, leave alone how they fared in the later part of WW II…
Lets not forget that a bunch of Argentinian air warriors with obscenely outdated equipment more than held their own (given what they had to play with) and put the RN to shame during the Falklands, penetrating fleet defenses almost at will – a few dud Argentinian bomb fuses were all that stood between the Brits and total disaster.
Never say never, but any kind of major surface assets may have had their day, at least in serious wars between great powers.
Fighting little guys without a meaningful air force or anti-ship missiles, who happen to be near the sea, now that is a whole different carrier story.

sam
December 21, 2013 at 10:06

Your statements would be accurate if the Carrier Battle groups only operated as a bunch of surface warships, but carrier battle groups also include a contingent of nuclear attack submarines. More than likely in an expanded conflict, this number will increase to include subs to protect the surface warships and to conduct their own offensive operations. From what I have read, the Virginia class attack subs far outclass their Chinese counterparts. Some would argue the updated LA class subs (which are more numerous) are superior also. Responses like this assume that the American forces plan of attack is one dimensional, when in fact their will be multiple facets will be involved. Let’s pray that a shooting war with China will never occur, but if it does my money is on the American military and it’s allies.

Tod Spitze
December 21, 2013 at 18:31

I agree that attack subs make a difference, not sure how much of a difference there will be 15 to 20 years from now when the shooting starts.
What will be the relative numbers of subs and will we still ‘far-outclass’ them then?
I certainly hope you are right, for our way of life @ money on the U.S. and allies.

jon livesey
December 21, 2013 at 13:05

Ssorry, but that comment about the Falklands has to be one of the dumbest I have ever seen. The RN lost a few ships in the War, but in the process they destroyed half the Argentine Air Force, and retook the Islands with fewer assets than the US deployed at Grenada.

The two aircraft carriers were an integral part of the British victpry, since if they planned to retake the Islands, they had to have ships and men at risk in the South Atlantic, and without the Carriers that would have been enormously more difficult.

Resentment at a British victory is your privilege, but I would say that keeping the enemy fleet bottled up in harbour, destroying half his air force, and extracting inominious surrender from his expeditionary for is a very odd definition of being “put to shame”.

Tod Spitze
December 21, 2013 at 18:21

I realize a paupered and impotent country has only memories of its long-ago past to keep its people going, even if it is a meaningless victory against a very ill-equipped force (which is Britain’s fate ever since the Suez fiasco of 1956 and the end of even the illusion of Britain as a world power).
My comment was about air elements being able to penetrate fleet defenses and the vulnerability of surface assets, not about who won some bush-league conflict.
And being ‘a few dud fuses away from disaster’ was from an RAF Air Marshal in a speech about the war, I will try to look it up and see if there is a record of it somewhere so I can point you to it.
And why should I resent what a couple of third world powers (UK and Argentina) managed between themselves? After all, Brits have always been ready to jump to our bidding ever since the ignominy of Britain’s rout and panicked flight from Dunkirk, being limited to support roles and never to be really relevant again.
I may have been resentful if Yorktown had been different, instead of the Brits slinking back to their island in utter defeat, to be restricted from then on to murdering and looting innocent and harmless folks in Asia and Africa, till Britain went broke pretending to be a world power in WW I and WW II and got kicked out of everywhere they had been.
Resentment about Britain is not in the cards for me, not by a long shot.
Humanitarian pity, perhaps.
But then again, perhaps not even that…

Mark Francis
January 3, 2014 at 22:53

It was not a question of the fuses being dud, the bomb fuses were set off by being allowed to freefall which rotates a small propellor on the nose to arm the detonator. The Argentine Air Force only managed to score bomb hits due the low altitude of the attack, but thios gave insufficient time for the bombs to arm. Many passed through the hulls of RN frigates and out the other side. This is precisely why such frigates (Type 12s, Type 21s) were designed that way.

The British won in the Falklands at the ultimate stretch of its range due almost entirely to the greater professionalism, bravery & skill of its servicemen, not more modern equipment. HMS Hermes was of the same era as the Vinciento de Maio and the Type 42 destroyers were the same as those in service with Argentina. The Harrier jet dated back to 1961.

The USA after independence did not have to go around the world looting other countries as it was busy exterminating Native Americans and invading Mexico & Canada. Black Americans remained slaves a full generation after the British Empire abolished slavery.

mark francis
January 3, 2014 at 23:01

On of the most striking events of the Falkands War was the long range – worldwide – reach of the British Vulcan bombers. The aircraft carrier will be become less necessary in future as aircraft – such as B-1, Stealth Bomber or drones – are launched from land bases in for example continental USA, to any given point on the planet.

RShaw
December 20, 2013 at 16:38

As Navy Captain Henry Hendrix pointed out in “At What Cost a Carrier” the modern day aircraft carrier is obsolete http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf).
The newest class of aircraft carrier, the Gerald Ford Class, cost $9 billion each and has a $7 million daily operating cost. Meanwhile, the Chinese DF-21 anti-shipping ballistic missile (with maneuverable re-entry vehicle) has a range of 900-miles and costing only hundreds of thousands. The cost of the supercarrier has made risking their employment to hazardous. At best, they will remain thousands of miles off shore but flying an F-35A that has only a 650-mile range. While this will be successful against another Iraq, countries that are investing in anti access area denial weapons like the Chinese will be able to deter the US from employing a modern carrier battle group.
The US would we wiser to invest in the more versatile America Class Amphib. The LHA-6 is a quarter of the production cost at $3.5B and capable to carry a MEU, 6 F-35 and 12 V-22s. A dozen littoral combat ships at $700M are cheaper than one Ford Class carrier. Likewise, invest into high speed, unmanned fighter and strike drone aircraft, instead of the $153 million F-35A (and associated pilot cost), that can operate out of a LCS fight module expands the capability this ship brings.
The day of the supercarrier is over.

Kris R.
January 4, 2014 at 01:24

I dont think there is any weapon system that can match a supercarrier’s flexibility and firepower aside from an ICBM. Also, if I was a fleet admiral I would stay clear of my enemies’ missile range and deploy anti-missile weapons in ahead of my supercarrier, especially my AEGIS capable ships. After which I would go after these supercarrier killer missile and their other first strike capabilities. My subs by then should have and probably has sunk 80% of their naval forces. If not, I will have to form hunter-killer groups for subs and surface combatants. By then, home-based bombers are already picking off targets in the heart of he enemy’s homeland. If they do manage to damage or destroy my first supercarrier there’s going to be more on the way more prepared and ready than ever. If the war doesnt escalate to an all-out nuclear war. Sounds like a Tom Clancy novel.

Ken Miller
December 20, 2013 at 10:51

So we have an argument that boils down to “assume our planners suddenly cease to use this mighty asset the way they are currently using it, have long used it, and we have no reason to believe they won’t continue to use it… therefore, that asset is useless.

If that’s the thrust of your argument, I suggest that the argument might be the useless thing here.

So long as our citizens don’t endorse total warfare in all cases, then we will need the power that carriers bring to the battle, every bit as much as we need troops on the ground. You can’t replace carriers with cruise missiles without going from warfare to massacre.

@uss_fallujah
December 20, 2013 at 01:26

Was there ever a time when any nation could immediatly employ it’s capital ships in close proximity to enemy strongholds? Of course not. The idea is you first have to wrestle control of the battlespace, then inflict maximum damage to the strongholds/homeland. An aircaft carrier is a principle weapon in gaining control, but not the only one (thus ASB use of long range stike, sub launched Cruise missles, etc) and then the ultimate weapon is forcing a final decision on the enemy (at least in air/sea resistance, you’ll still need ‘phibs and Marines to get a true “final”)

Wolf
December 20, 2013 at 00:22

Possessing a ship which isn’t likely to be involved in a contested sea control battle because it costs too much to lose ought to at least make us ponder if we’ve out-priced our ability to fight the wars we plan and exercise towards. On that note, we train to fight sea control battles with carriers but in reality it is doubtful we would ever actually risk one for contested waters. If there’s a decent probability we will fight in carrier-less battles perhaps we ought to begin to train as such. I can’t think of a major fleet exercise that is not carrier-centric. We ought to have one.

Bob
December 18, 2013 at 23:19

Many, many years ago (mid-1980s), running (the original) Harpoon on my IBM PS2/25, I found that, in Norway’s Vest-fjord, home of John Lehman’s “Maritime Strategy,” playing the American role meant surviving by shooting down all the AS-4-capable Backfires, Bears, and Badgers. that were dumb enough to get close enough to be engaged. On the other hand, all I had to do in the Russian role was to risk my recce Badgers and Bears to get a radar/elint fix on the Americans, sortie the same AS-4-capable aircraft in one massive strike group, launch my 100-or-so Mach 4+ nuclear missiles at maximum range, and return to base to reload and “re-service the target.” And wait for the tinny computer speaker to play the Soviet National Anthem.

Looks like little has changed in many ways.

Rusted Halo
December 18, 2013 at 21:04

I have been deeply concerned for a long time that surface combatants, ALL of them, are insufficiently equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems. The US and others can babble on about layered defences until they run out of breath, but if a ship can only handle a few incoming rounds simultaneously it is going to be in a lot of trouble. And that even assumed what they are equipped with actually works. Phalanx was of little use in 1991 when the USS Missouri had a discussion with a Silkworm. It too a Sea Dart of all things to stop the conversation while the Phalanx system engaged chaff clouds! God alone knows what would have happened if they had been up against a competent enemy launching waves of Silkworms

JTW
December 18, 2013 at 15:47

Since WW2 only one naval conflict has been waged between nations with naval forces strong enough to engage and destroy each others’ carriers.
That was the Falklands war.
In that war, one side kept its carriers out of harm’s way by not deploying them at all (Argentina kept its carrier in port, out of strike range of the Brits, instead limiting itself severely by using the carrier aircraft from land bases at the absolute limit of their endurance), while the British limited their carrier forces’ effectiveness by placing them so far from the islands that land based forces could not reach them, again limiting the effectiveness of the aircraft by having them operate at long range only.
The US had battle plans involving taking carriers in close to the USSR for strikes, putting them at risk, but those were last resort efforts in order to get tactical strike aircraft with nuclear weapons within range of Soviet bomber bases in case nuclear war was imminent and there’d be no homes to return to anyway for their crews.
I seriously doubt they’d have ever risked their carriers in a more limited conflict with the USSR, or now with any other nation that has the ability to actually threaten them (even in Vietnam, the carriers were kept well out at sea, preventing the north Vietnamese from attacking them at the cost of endurance for US strike aircraft, and afaik in Korea the same was done).

SirPJ
December 18, 2013 at 15:12

Wayne Hughs “Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat: Arbiter of high tech combat are A) scouting effectiveness, i.e. meaning proficient us e of shipbard and offboard sensors, combat systems computer data links to find enemy units. B) “Weapons Range” inflict damage at a distance. C)tactics which determined by scouting effectiveness and the range of weaponry.

So I ask: Has something fundamentally changed with A and B that invalidates the worth of investing in carriers as force projection tools. I don’t think there is a firm clear answer here for precisely the point that the author is making — it hasn’t been tested in conflict. However some logical presumptions could be made based on what we know on the evolution of warfare.

There is only one country mounting a signficant active defense that can challenge our model for force projection. Assuming other countries follow their model for A2AD, how many can mount that significant of a threat?

My idea of how conflict would evolve does not appear to invalidate the worth of a carrier as James Holmes appears to build in: http://thediplomat.com/2013/12/how-to-measure-an-aircraft-carriers-worth/

A) Scouting effectiveness. Yes, many advances have been made, but have they made the battlespace transparent to the enemy? A lot of them rely on fragile shore and spaced based infrastructure subject to attack with precision munitons (or kinetic munitions in the case of satellites). So while the may give an edge in the beginning of conflict, it won’t last beyond the first strike on a carrier (assuming strategic will to continue conflict). And here’s the crux — will we strike early enough in a short duration conflict where the enemy has very limited objectives (small island grab)? Meanwhile, significant advances have been made in deception capabilities against ground and space based sensors. Space based optical sensors meanwhile cannot scan everywhere in the ocean and instantly target carriers. The worrisome part would be the wide employment of submarines as missile shooters and scouts coupled with UAVs. I would worry less about UAVs as they can be erased from the skies relatively easily. Submarines with large missile ranges could saturate air defenses however and then close for torpedo kills.

B) Weapons Range. DF21- Yes big problem in this case. Meanwhile, carriers can out maneuver most diesel subs, but it is worth considering the range of their weapons and the difficulty or ineffectiveness of being able to manuever outside their weapons range. However, in both these cases you have to maneuver outside of the weapons seeker Area of Uncertainty, not the range. Delay, degrade, or destroy targeting means then opens opportunity.

And it comes down to this — is it worth investing in a 13billion dollar mobile airfield that intimidates the enemy? There is only 1 US full time, full access fixed airfield within 500NM of China — Okinawa. In most conflicts, the Carrier will continue to rain supreme as an instrument of national will. Has its luster faded, yes. Does this mean its worth reinvesting that money elsewhere? Maybe.

Some have argued that Air-Sea Battle is pointless because it cannot restore the status quo of US-Sea Control in Asia in a confilict. Same academics argue that a new maritime strategic order would emerge in which no country can project signifcant power by sea. I say that would take a lot of missiles and significant hardening to sensor networks and the contintuity of operations.

The point to make is — If a Carrier is costing us developing the lower cost options to open denied battlespace and strike deep and fast at the enemy despite robust sensors, UAVs, submarines, IADS, Ballistic Missiles and Anti-ship Ballistic Missiles, and cruise missiles — then let’s consider reallocating resources to the platforms AND WEAPONS that will open access.

Kris R.
January 4, 2014 at 01:51

A super carrier may be denied sea-access but remember it can carry multiple types of aircrafts that can easily circumvent area-denial strategies. Also, a fast moving carrier is hard to track especially in a war-time environment. You are right, a carrier is a circumstantial weapons platform, and it is solely a force multiplier. On its own it is ineffective. Within a battle fleet it is a very effective weapons platform. It is a mobile airfield and it is only our imagination that can limit the different types of aircrafts and weapons one can deploy from a super carrier. From a layman’s standpoint, the super carrier is the most cost effective and efficient way of dominating warfare.

MYK
December 18, 2013 at 04:45

I recommend reading FP’s article, “Is your Aircraft Carrier a Lemon” to get an idea of why the Russians are buying their carriers from the west, and dumping their proven lemons on India, and China relying on refurbished carrier from Ukraine as pride of PLA-N fleet.

Makes you realize why China won’t be fielding any carriers worth a damn in the near future, except for porting them to deal with constant breakdowns.

I couldn’t believe it when revealed that whenever the Admiral Kuznetsov actually makes it to sea, it has to be escorted by a several ocean going tug boats in case of breakdowns.

After reading this article, then you will understand why Chinese media also calls the J-15 nothing more than a “Flopping Fish!”

TDog
December 18, 2013 at 14:01

MYK,

The Admiral Kuznetsov was accompanied by several tug boats during its journey to the Ukraine because it didn’t have any engines at the time. It was technically a dead ship.

The Liaoning is currently more than capable of traveling under its own power and when it made the journey to Hainan Island, it was accompanied by two frigates and two destroyers.

Derek
December 17, 2013 at 19:20

The carrier is a support vessel that serves as a force multiplier. The naval equivalent of the A-10. Like the A-10, it can only perform well under very specific circumstances, after all major threats are neutralised.

A risk-adverse navy, when encountering a sea-denial strategy, would prefer to use the carrier fleet as a defensive force such as a blockading action. In this scenario, the carrier would act as a glorified blockade ship. And a catch-22 is formed, having a carrier fleet will force the enemy to adopt sea-denial strategies, making the carrier a cost-inefficient vessel as the enemy avoids a confrontation that utilizes the carrier to its maximum capacity.

amit (India)
December 17, 2013 at 12:45

The threat which aircraft carriers face today is in principle the same as the threat faced by battleships/dreadnoughts from torpedo boats and submarines almost a century back (before the First World War). Also, the biggest naval battle of the First World War – the battle of Jutland – proved indecisive as no side wanted to risk its battleships in an all or nothing gambit. Eventually, the bulk of the fighting was done by cruisers, destroyers, submarines etc – while battleships just faced off each other without actually getting into battle. It seems possible that a naval commander may not want to risk a very expensive (and irreplaceable in case of China, India and everyone except the US) asset facing a capable enemy.

I could be wrong here, but since the Second World War, carriers in combat have been largely used against foes who don’t have the capability to strike back – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq in case of US. In India’s case, aircraft carrier played a role in two conflicts – 1961 invasion of Goa (vs. Portugal) and 1971 war with Pakistan (in the Eastern theatre) – in either case, the rival power had no means to contest the air/sea.

Based on this, I think there is no reason why US would risk its carriers by sending them close to Chinese shore – or China risking its carrier(s) by using them against a capable navy such as Japan or the US. A more plausible (and completely hypothetical) scenario for the US would be to keep its carriers beyond the range of shore based artillery/missiles – which would make a saturation attack impossible. From a safe distance, these ships can blockade the other party – what the British tried to do to Germans in both the wars. This will force the other power to either starve slowly (metaphorically) or to come out in the ocean and fight where the US has the advantage. Given its geography and relations with maritime neighbours (Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan), China may be especially vulnerable to such a blockade.

Getting back to the First World War example, while battleships didn’t do much of fighting, they were still essential. Without them, there could be no control of the sea, and as long as the other side had them – they presented a credible threat – and only a battleship could fight a battleship on open seas. So perhaps aircraft carriers may end up being used like the battleships of WW1.

Doineedaname
December 17, 2013 at 20:55

Totally agree with you. Yes the American carrier groups can
block the sea lanes starving off China esp. the oil and gas supplies.

TDog
December 18, 2013 at 14:19

Unfortunately US anti-submarine warfare training has suffered as of late due to the military’s emphasis on pursuing the war on terror. The result is that our carriers are more vulnerable to submarines than ever before.

We also have to wonder if the US would be willing to do that. China owns a lot of our dollars and debt and dumping those onto the market would ruin us. Yes, it would hurt China as well, but if left with no choice, they would have nothing to lose anyway.

Kim's Uncle
December 18, 2013 at 08:54

“only a battleship could fight a battleship on open seas”.

Maybe in WWI but in WWII battleships proved to be vulnerable to aircraft such as the sinking of the Prince of Whales by Imperial Japanese bombers and torpedo planes.

Phillip
December 19, 2013 at 06:49

A huge misconception was that battleships could not defend themselves vs aircraft. If you read CAPT Hughes and others that have discussed this at lenght you will see that American Battleships and Cruisers could and did defend themselves very well against air attack after 1942. Infact part of the reason that the Japanese shifted to Kamaize attacks was the potency of AA from ships. As the war progressed and lessons were learned American ships could defeated large scale air attacks by using an improved combination of radar, 40mm guns instead of 50cal and 20mm, proximity fuses for the larger rounds 40mm, 3in, 5in and better tactics. Another fact was the whole reason why Halsey sent his battleships north to finish off the Japanese (not the ones assigned to shorebombardment duties) was because of the very real risk of a night time gun battle that would require Halsey’s battleships to be part of the engagement since they were the only capable night time ship killers.

There is a place for capital warships in the modern area…

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